Serving a Community

Donna Fayko on her new role at New Hanover County Public Health and Social Services

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In early November, DONNA FAYKO celebrated her one-month anniversary as the new consolidated director for New Hanover County Public Health and Social Services.

The position is both new to Fayko and new to the department. She brings experience in both sectors of the “consolidated” role.

Social service workers usually serve their community after an issue occurs, Fayko explains, while public health workers often engage in preventive measures.

“When this job came up, It was like ‘oh my gosh, look at the opportunities I’ll have to do both,’” she says.

In her former position as the director of the Rowan County Department of Social Services (outside of the Charlotte area), Fayko had already begun integrating both practices.

“(In Rowan county) we started healthy community initiatives,” Fayko says, “like looking to have more fresh food options and address the food deserts.”

Under her tenure, Rowan County organized a post-overdose response team that involved EMS, public health workers and peer support specialists. They also held community forums about the opioid epidemic.

“All of this impacted the families I was dealing with in social services,” Fayko says.

With degrees in psychology and counselor education, Fayko has been serving families and children in need throughout her entire career, beginning at the Department of Social Services in Charlotte.

“When I went to grad school to pursue counseling,” she says, “I read the book, “The Cross and Switchblade,” about a social worker working with gang-involved youth. It just impressed me so much and I said, ‘that’s what I want to do.’”

In New Hanover County, Fayko continues to apply her expertise in social services while immersing herself in community health initiatives.

“I get to dabble in psychology and medicine and law,” she says. “There’s never a dull moment—maybe some stressful moments, but never dull.”

In the past month, Fayko has engaged in several hands-on health initiatives, such as joining environmental health specialists at a mosquito trapping, shadowing a restaurant health assessment inspection, and attending the drive-thru COVID testing event at UNC Wilmington.

Regarding the pandemic, Fayko says “it’s definitely an interesting time to start a new job.”

“I get to be involved in the planning for the vaccine,” Fayko says, “which should be coming down the pipe in the coming months.”

In addition to COVID-related planning, Fayko will soon work with the county to address the annual community health assessment conducted by the state.

“This health assessment identified the priority areas for us to address,” she says.

On November 17, Health and Human Services employees will discuss the top five issues identified: drug misuse, chronic disease, mental health, environmental health exposure, and obesity.

“We’ll be prioritizing,” Fayko explains. “I really think New Hanover County is situated with resources and the progressive leadership at the county level to create models for community engagement that can be a model for others to emulate.”

Fayko is excited to be in Wilmington right as New Hanover County has hired Chief Diversity and Equity Officer LINDA THOMPSON, with whom she’ll be collaborating.

“I’m very motivated to do work by building relationships by building trust,” Fayko says. “We have the opportunity to address trauma and to enhance outreach to communities that have been underrepresented.”


To view more of photographer Aris Harding’s work, go to arisharding.com.

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Categories: Women to Watch